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John Rylands 

No. 3 
"A litil boke for 
the Pestilence" 

Bernard Quaritch 
II Grafton Street New Bond Street, London, W. 
Sherratt and Hughes 
Publishers to the Victoria University of Manchester 
34 Cross Street, Manchester, and 
Soho Square, London, W. 

A litil boke the whiche traytied 
and reherced many gode thinges 
necessaries for the... Pestilence... 
made by the... Bisshop of Arusiens 
... [London], [I485 ? ] 
Reproduced in facsimile from the copy in the 
John Rylands Library. With an Introduction 
by Guthrie Vine, M.A. 

Manchester : At the University Press 
London: Bernard Quaritch, and Sherratt and Hughes 

Letterpress and Plates primed 
at the University Press Oxford 
by Horace Hart 

of facsimile reproductions of some of the more interesting 
and remarkable of the rarer books and prints of which 
they are the guardians, 
The volumes will consist of minutely accurate facsimiles 
of the works selected, preceded by short bibliographical 
It is proposed to limit the issue of each work to five 
hundred copies. Of this number two hundred will be 
reserved for distribution to the principal libraries of the 
world ; the remainder will be offered for sale at a price 
calculated to cover the cost of reproduction. 
The introduction to the present volume has been 
written by the sub-librarian, Mr. Guthrie Vine, to whom 
the thanks of the Governors of the library and of the 
writer of this note are due. 
We are also indebted to the Controller of the Oxford 
University Press for the interest and care which he has 
bestowed upon the production of the work. 
The John Rylands Library 


Social Effects of Epidemics 
The Plague in Mediaeval Europe 
The Sweating Sickness 
The first London Printer. 
Lettou and Machlinla 
Machlinia's Press 
The Original of this Facsimile . 
Sweden in the Fifteenth Century 
The Author of this Treatise 
History of the Treatise 




TH influence of epidemic disease in the development 
SOCIAL of society is a matter replete with interest, 
EFFECTS OF whether the subject be viewed from the 
EPIDEMICS standpoint of history, or of medicine. The 
mysterious visitation that swept away the Assyrian host 
beneath the walls of Jerusalem, the disastrous plague that 
sapped the vitality of Athens in the maturity of her great- 
heSS, are but conspicuous examples of forces always 
operative in history. 
Great and widespread calamities, by their utter dis- 
regard of social conditions, must ever effect profound 
modifications in the form, and structure, of society. The 
Black Death may be considered at least as important 
a factor in producing the economic changes that marked 
the dose of the fourteenth century in England as the 
long and exhausting war with France. Yet the Black 
Death was merely one of many epidemics similar in 
character, if lesser in degree. 
If such epidemics were liable on their first approach to 
be regarded as special manifestations of the divine dis- 
pleasure, against which it were hopeless to contend, it can 
awaken no surprise. That on their recurrence from time 
to time men sho61d endeavour to cope with their enemy 
with such means as lay at their disposal resulted naturally 


enough from their growing familiarity with the style, and 
manner, of attack. 
The treatise here reproduced furnishes an account of 
the various remedies, and curative methods, adopted in the 
middle ages for checking the advance of the terrible foe. 
The mere recital of the more serious attacks to which 
Europe was subjected from the time of the Black Death 
to that of the compilation of the present treatise, a period 
of a little over a century, is sufficient to give one some 
idea of the devastation that must have been wrought in 
Europe by this dreadful scourge. 

The Black Death is said to have originated in the Far 
East, and thence to have swept across Asia 
PLAGUE IN without a check. It made its appearance 
SV.r)IAvAL in Sicily in 346, and in the following year 
broke out in Constantinople, Greece, and 
Italy. Thence it travelled across the Continent until it 
reached England in 348, where it lasted for several 
years, being conveyed from this country in x349 to 
Norway and the other Scandinavian states. In x 36 , and 
again in x368, we find numbers dying from the disease 
both in France and England. In x37 o countless victims 
are said to have perished from the plague in Ireland, 
which country again suffered severely from its ravages in 
i383. The year 375 witnessed an outbreak of a serious 
character in England, although not comparable to that of 
 39o-9 , which was likened for its mortality to the Black 
Death of forty years before. 



The fifteenth century enjoyed no more immunity from 
attacks of the plague than did the previous one. All 
parts of Europe suffered intermittently from it. In Eng- 
land it broke out between i4o 5 and t4o7, carrying off in 
London, it is said, 3o,oo people in the latter year. The 
next grave attack in England appears to have occurred 
about 142o. In a petition from the Marches of 1421 we 
hear of "great numbers of persons dead by the great 
mortalities and pestilences which have raged for three 
years past and still reign ". Turning to the Continent 
one finds that 8o, cx3o persons are stated to have died in 
1427 in Dantzig and the neighbouring country. In 
1438-39 the plague was still very rife in Germany, its 
prevalence in Basel being attested by Aeneas Sylvius, 
afterwards Pope Pius II. England, too, was not exempt 
from the disease in these years, for between 143o and 
t44o four outbreaks are recorded in London, the last one 
extending to the whole kingdom. The next visitation of 
the plague, which began in 1448 , appears to have overrun 
practically the whole of Western Europe. It reached 
Sweden in i45o  and devastated that country for a period 
of five years, carrying off in I455 no fewer than 9,ocx3 
persons in Stockholm alone. The autumn of i464 saw a 
recurrence of the disease in Sweden, which lasted with dire 
effects for about two years; the mortality in Stockholm 
on this occasion is said to have reached a total of 7,oo. 
The prevalence of the plague in Sweden at this period 
is of special interest in view of the fact that the treatise here 
reproduced in facsimile was written (as will appear later) 

This statement is borne out by a manuscript in the 
British Museum (Additional MSS. 27582) written by 
Thomas Forestier, a doctor of medicine belonging to 
Normandy who was resident in London at the time. 
Soon afterwards he seems to have removed to Rouen, 
where, probably in I49 I, was published a Latin work by 
him on the plague, entitled: "Tractatvs contra pesti- 
lentiam thenasmonem et dissenteriam." In the latter 
work he names the I9th of September, x485, as the date 
of the commencement of the sweating sickness. Other 
authorities, whilst differing as to the day, agree in attri- 
buting its origin to the autumn of x485. 
After its first appearance the disease seems to have 
spread with terrible rapidity. In London Thomas Hyll 
the lord mayor, Sir William Stokker chosen as his suc- 
cessor, and several aldermen died within a few days--facts 
that enable us to form some idea of the extent of the 
mortality amongst the other classes of citizens. As the 
coronation of Henry VII took place with due ceremony 
on October 3% and Parliament met on the 7th of the 
following month, the departure of the disease would appear 
to have been as sudden as was its advent. The same 
suddenness that marked the general movements of the 
epidemic characterized the individual attacks. In the 
*Tractatvs contra pestilentiam, etc." Forestier says that 
,c more than  5,000 persons departed this world by sudden 
death, as if from divine chastisement, and many died 
unshriven without respite, whilst walking in the streets ". 
Vhether Forestier is here speaking of the number of 

victims in London does not seem clear, but the suddenness 
of the attacks must have been not the least terrible feature 
of them. We have a vivid picture of this characteristic of 
the disease in the manuscript treatise of Forestier. "We 
saw" (he says) "two prestys standing togeder and 
speaking togeder, and we saw both of them dye sodenly. 
Also... we se the wyf of a taylour taken and sodenly 
dyed. Another yonge man walking by the street fell 
down sodenly. Also another gentylman ryding out of 
the cyte dyed." The terms in which he describes the 
symptoms correspond closely with other accounts: "And 
this sickness cometh with a grete swetyng and stynkyng, 
with rednesse of the face and of all the body, and a con- 
tynual thurst, with a grete here and hedache because of 
the fumes and venoms." It is no cause for wonder that 
to a superstitious age the outbreak of such a disease 
augured ill for the peace of Henry's reign. 
The disease soon made its way from London into the 
country. Definite notices of it are scanty, but we know 
that the abbot of Croyland succumbed to an attack on the 
 4th of October. Its prevalence at Oxford is well attested ; 
although it lasted but a few weeks its stay was long enough 
to exact a heavy toll among the scholars of the University. 
Though records of its presence are but few, the statements 
of historians as to the extent of its ravages may presumably 
be accepted without reservation. 
This disease that broke out in 485 was generally 
believed to differ in character from any of the epidemics 
that had preceded it; hence the assignment of a new name 


Seine, the very region where Henry's force had been 
raised, and lasted with but little intermission for a century 
and a half. It seems not unreasonable to suppose that 
the seeds of this later endemic disease may always have 
lain latent in this region, but for lack of entirely suitable 
conditions may for long have failed in their native soil to 
reach the point of germination. These conditions must 
have been supplied in England. Contact with people of 
a different stock, and other manners, may have been all 
that was requisite to enable the infection to burst forth. 
Strangers are naturally more susceptible to any malady 
than those who by long residence in an infected area have 
become gradually inured against a disease. A parallel is 
furnished by the yellow fever, from which negroes enjoy 
almost complete immunity, although they are believed to 
have been the means of introducing the virus to the white 
man. Even the exemption of Henry's force from attacks 
of the sweating sickness (supposing it granted, and history 
is silent on the point) would not seem, therefore, to justify 
us in refusing our assent to the theory that traces the 
infection to that source. 

Whilst the honour of printing the first English books, 
as well as that of introducing the art of 
LONDON typography into this country, belongs to an 
VRIT.R Englishman the distinction of establishing 
the first press within the actual boundary of the city of 
London is claimed by John Lettou, supposed to belong 
to Lithuania of which name Lettou is an old form. 

An examination of the technique of Lettou's work 
shows that he was a practised printer. The fount of type 
used in his first books is practically identical with one 
employed at Rome in I478-79 by Johann Bulle of 
Bremen which according to the late Mr. Proctor, was 
the same as one in the hands of another printer in that 
city, Johann Schurener. It seems quite likely that Lettou 
may have been an assistant at one of these presses, and 
have brought away with him from that city a fount of 
type with which he was already familiar. Many of the 
early printers moved from one country to another, so that 
there would be nothing exceptional in Lettou migrating 
from Rome to London. 
What reasons brought Lettou to London we do not 
know, but here in I48O we find him printing three editions 
of an indulgence of John Kendale against the Turks 
(of which Caxton printed a corresponding number), 
besides the work of Antonius Andreas "QBestiones super 
duodecim libros metaphisice", and in the following year 
the "Expositiones super Psalterium" of Thomas Wallensis. 
A certain amount of rivalry no doubt existed between 
Caxton and Lettou, and in one particular, namely, the use 
of" signatures", the former seems to have copied Lettou. 
These are small letters (or figures) placed at the foot of the 
first leaves of a quire to aid the binder in the arrangement 
of the sheets. They are found in some of the earliest manu- 
scripts, and were at first added by hand to printed books 
but about I472 the custom of printing them was introduced. 
The two books printed by Lettou were produced at the 

A noticeable deterioration in the quality of workman- 
ship accompanied the change in the class of books issued 
by the press. For the neat fount used by Lettou was 
substituted a small cramped type, evidently designed for 
printing law books, as it contains numerous contractions, 
like the legal manuscripts of the time. 
After the publication of the five books mentioned above 
Lettou's name disappears ; whether through death, or 
through withdrawal from the business, is not known. The 
deterioration in the press work just alluded to suggests 
that on the accession of Machlinia he did not exercise 
the same active supervision over the press, and may have 
been preparing to retire from it altogether on his partner 
acquiring sufficient practice in the art of printing. On 
the other hand the consistent employment of signatures 
so long as Lettou remained in the firm--a typographical 
aid used very irregularly by Machlinia--shows that the 
former did not give up entire charge to his partner. 
The date when Machlinia acquired the sole control of 
the press appears to have been about t483, although 
owing to the entire absence of dates in his books one is 
unable to state positively when the change took place. 
The same fount of type, with some modifications, as 
that used by Lettou and Machlinia appears in one other 
book, "The siege of Rhodes," which is generally attri- 
buted to an unknown printer. This is an English version 
by John Kay, who describes himself as poet laureate, of 
a Latin work written by Gulielmus Caorsin, vice-chancdlor 
of the Knights of Malta. 


Dibdin in the "Bibliotheca Spenceriana" adjudged the 
work, on account of the resembhnce of the type, to be 
the production of Lettou and MacMinia, or of Lettou alone ; 
but, as the book shows traces of less skilful workmanship 
than those with which Lettou's name is associated, and has 
no signatures, which that printer always used, one may 
assume that he had no hand in printing it. It is produced 
with more skill and care than Machlinia was wont to exhibit, 
so one seems unable to entertain the idea of his being the 
printer, whose identity appears likely to remain a moot point 
for the present. 
The book is dedicated by the translator to Edward IV, 
whose death took place in April, x483. As dedications 
were apt to be copied without alteration in printed books 
of that period, long after they were originally written, it 
would be rash to take for granted that this was the date 
of printing solely for that reason ; on the other hand, x483 
does not seem an unlikely date for the issue of the book, 
as Machlinia had probably just started on his own account 
with fresh types, and may have parted with the discarded 
fount to some other printer who employed it for this 

The absence of definite dates in all of Machlinia's books 
MACHLINIA'S constitutes a serious difficulty in their 
PRESS arrangement, which no examination of the 
technique seems able to overcome, for he appears to use 
quite indiscriminately signatures, headlines, and directors" 
rathe name given to the small letters printed in the blank 



spaces left for the insertion of rubricated or illuminated 
capitals, to serve as guides to the rubricator. 
The productions of his press can be divided, however, 
into two groups according to the type employed in them, 
known as the Fleet Bridge group, and the Iqolborn group. 
In two of the eight books belonging to the former group 
the printer gives his address as near "Flete brigge'; 
whilst in the colophon to one of the latter he describes 
himself as printing in Flolborn. 
For the books of the Fleet Bridge group, which was 
probably the earlier of the two, Machlinia used two new 
founts of type, of a square gothic character, described as 
types 2 and 3 by Mr. Proctor, his type I, which was 
used for headings and opening words of books, being 
the same as that similarly employed by Lettou. The two 
books referred to as containing colophons, both of which 
are in the John Rylands Library, are an edition of 
Littleton's "Tenores novelli" and the "Liber aggrega- 
tionis" of Albertus Magnus. The colophon of the 
former is as follows: " Expliciunt Tenores nouelli 
lmpressi per me wilhelm de machlinia in opulentissima 
Ciuitate Londonia iuxta ponte qu.i vulgariter dicitur Flete 
brigge." The colophon of the Albertus Magnus reads 
thus : "[ A1bertus Magnus de Secretis nature Explicit 
Necnon per me wilhelmum de Mechlinia Impressus In 
opulentissima Ciuitate Londoniar Iuxta pontem qui 
vulgariter dicitur Flete brigge." 
Perhaps the most interesting amongst the Fleet Bridge 
books from a bibliographical point of view is a small 


vellum edition of the "Horae ad usum Sarum ", the 
existence of which is known only from a few leaves 
recovered from various bindings and distributed in the 
British Museum, the libraries of Cambridge University, 
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Lincoln Minster. 
This book exhibits the only ornament used by Machlinia, 
in the shape of an engraved border, which we afterwards 
find in the hands of Richard Pynson. 
Another book that deserves a passing reference is "The 
revdation of St. Nicholas to a monk of Evesham ", as 
affording an example of Machlinia's somewhat casual 
methods of work. In the course of printing this book 
one of the sheets was wrongly imposed, but instead of re- 
printing the whole sheet correctly he merely printed off 
some copies .of the wrong pages and pasted them down in 
their proper order. 
One of the books in this group most commonly met 
with is an edition of the "Nova statuta", printed in law 
French. It covers the period from the first year of 
Edward III to the 22nd year of Edward IV inclusive. 
The latter year terminated on March 3, I48Z-3, and as 
Edward IV died in the following month this book can 
reasonably be assigned to his successor's reign. 
The removal of Machlinia to Holborn may probably 
be placed about the latter half of I484, assuming that the 
introduction of the new types (Nos. 4 and 5) synchronized 
with the change of address. The type styled by Proctor 
no. 4 bears a strong resemblance to one of Caxton's 
founts (no. 2") and is still more like that used by 


Museum, Cambridge University Library, and the John 
Rylands Library respectively. The British Museum copy 
has a title-page, the earliest occurrence of one in any book 
printed in this country. The next example of a title- 
page is found in "The Chastysing of goddes Chyldern", 
printed by Wynkyn de Worde about 1491. 
The only other certain production of Machlinia's press 
with which any definite date can be connected is a Bull of 
Innocent VIII confirming the marriage of Henry VII with 
Elizabeth of York, and excommunicating all who should 
rebel against Henry VII, which was issued by the Pope on 
March 27, 486. There are two copies now extant, one 
of which is preserved in the John Rylands Library, and 
the other in the library of the Society of Antiquaries. 
The unique copy of the "Regule, etc.", of the 
Chancery of Pope Innocent VIII preserved in the John 
Rylands Library, that must have been printed after Sept. 
23, ,484, has also been regarded as one of the books 
which assist in the arrangement of Machlinia's productions. 
But, in spite of its close resemblance, the fount employed 
is not the same as type 4 of Machlinia, having a lighter 
face, and containing, too, a superior m which Machlinia 
does not appear to have used. If it is not formed by 
trimming up type 4, it is probably a fount employed by 
Veldener, or Jean Brito, so that the work would have to 
be assigned to a Low Country press. 
One of the best known books in the Holborn group is 
the "Speculum Christiani" attributed to John Watton. It 
is a volume of theology, written partly in Latin, and partly 


by the terms of which the three kingdoms of Denmark, 
Norway, and Sweden were to be henceforward under the 
rule of a single sovereign. 
Causes for dissatisfaction with this arrangement were 
not long in making their appearance. A struggle arose 
as to the feudal rights of Denmark over the duchy of 
Schleswig, and this devdoped on the death of Margaret 
in '413 into a war which hsted twenty years. To meet 
the expenses of this war Eric levied heavy taxes on the 
Swedes, who in i434 took up arms under a miner, named 
Engdbrekt Engelbrektsson, and compdled the Swedish 
Council of State to proclaim the deposition of the king in 
,436. By the influence of the nobility Eric regained his 
authority to a large extent, but he was obliged to appoint 
as viceroy in Sweden Karl Knutsson, one of the leaders of 
the national party. 
Eric was not destined, however, to enjoy his regal 
power much longer, for in I439 he was dethroned by the 
three countries, and was obliged to seek safety elsewhere. 
In his stead Denmark chose his nephew, Christopher of 
Bavaria, whose authority was soon recognized in the other 
two kingdoms. On his death in 14.48 Christian, count of 
Oldenburg, was chosen to fill the throne of Denmark, to 
which was added shortly that of Norway. The Swedish 
people were not so compliant as the sister state, and 
elected Karl Knutsson king, under the title of Karl VIII. 
With the nobility and clergy, at the head of whom was 
the Archbishop of Upsah, openly disaffected towards him, 
his position became at last untenable, and he was obliged in 


summary of the events which happened during the life- 
time of our author it is impossible, in the absence of 
certain information, to reconstruct with any degree of 
probability the outline of his career. 

For our author's name and office we are indebted to 
THE AUTHOR the Latin editions of this treatise printed in 
OF THIS the fifteenth century. In these the work 
is described thus, with variations: "Regi- 
men contra pestilentiam... Kaminti (or Kamiti), episcopi 
Arusiensis civitatis, regni Dacie, medicine expertissimi 
professoris." The form Kaminti, or Kamiti, has long 
been recognized as a mistake for Kannuti, or Kanuti ; but 
owing to the fact that ' Arusiensis civitatis" was wrongly 
identified with Aarhuus in Denmark instead of Arosia, the 
Latin form of Vtergs near Stockholm in Sweden, the 
author could not be traced, as no bishop of Aarhuus bore 
a name at all resembling his. The apparent geogra- 
phical difficulty connected with the expression "regni 
Dacie", i.e. kingdom of Denmark, exphins itself on 
reference to the history of the two countries of Sweden 
and Denmark, and, indeed, by narrowing the limits 
of,our search hdps us to fix with the more certainty 
on Bengt Knutsson (Benedict Kanuti), who was dected 
bishop in t46I, as the author of this work. 
Our author was a man of rank we learn from the 
Swedish chronicle of the bishops of Viisters, compiled by 
Peder Svart, a bishop of the see who died in ,. D. 1562. 
From the fact of his appointment to the bishopric of this 


There are grounds for bdieving that some such conflict 
between the civil and spiritual powers arose in the present 
instance. Bishop Svart's chronicle states that Knutsson 
was appointed bishop by the Council of the Kingdom in 
King Christian's absence"--which need by no means 
imply his ignorance--'and that he held the office two 
years." Official documents of Pope Pius II, however, 
show that immediatdy after the death of Olaf Gunnari in 
I46I the Pope appointed to the see Birger Mnsson, 
who generally figures as successor, in May I462, to 
Knutsson. As two letters are in existence, one of July 
25, 1462, and another of 1463, in which Knutsson is spoken 
of as bishop of Viisters, it seems fairly certain that one is 
not justified in assuming the death of Knutsson to have 
necessarily taken place before May, 1462 , when Birger 
Mnsson is credited with being elected bishop, a date that 
may only mark the time when the Papal nomination was 
accepted by the chapter. Supposing Knutsson to have 
been a partisan of the Danish king, as suggested above, 
one can easily understand that the Swedish clergy in their 
growing state of alienation from Christian I would 
welcome the opportunity of removing from office one of 
his supporters. 
As to the time and place of Knutsson's death we are 
m ignorance. The same obscurity in which the earlier 
portion of his life is wrapt surrounds the closing scenes. 
The compilation of the work on the plague--the outcome 
of the experiences gained in his days of poverty--that was 
the source of all the treatises published on the subject for 



,50 years, has alone preserved his name from entire 
oblivion. The disease that had devastated Sweden from 
,45o to x455, and again in 464 and x465, had probably 
never entirely quitted the country in the interval between 
these visitations, and it was in anticipation of its breaking 
out with increased virulence that we may assume the 
author to have written his work about 461-63 . 
As the text is available in this reproduction, it is 
unnecessary to dwell upon the causes assigned by 
Knutsson for the spread of the pestilence, or on the 
remedies which he recommended. 

The various forms in which his work was circulated 
HISTORY need to be briefly described before termi- 
OF THE nating this notice of his treatise. Several 
Latin editions were printed in the fifteenth 
century, lacking for the most part any indication of printer, 
place, or date. On typographical grounds they are assigned 
to Antwerp, Paris, etc. None of them are likely to be 
much, if at all, earlier than the English version printed 
by Machlinia. A versified form of the work appears in 
an edition of "Albertus Magnus de Virtutibus herbarum", 
which was printed about  5oo. 
The history of the English version is of greater interest. 
One of the Sloane manuscripts in the British Museum is 
said to agree so closely in wording and spelling that it 
may actually have been the original from which the text 
was set up by Machlinia. This is the manuscript described 
as no. 276. in Ayscough's Catalogue, and no. 404